Governor Scott Walker (R) narrowly lost his bid for a third term in office, after a nail-biter election against Democrat Tony Evers.
The New York Times called the election for Evers after 2 AM Eastern Time early Wednesday morning. Evers was declared the winner with 99 percent of precincts reporting, ahead of Walker by just 29,966 votes statewide, winning 49.6 percent of the vote to Walker’s 48.4 percent.
The deciding factor, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, was the late discovery of approximately 50,000 uncounted absentee ballots in deep-blue Milwaukee County — where Scott Walker ironically served as county executive prior to running for governor in 2010.
Evers, who has been Wisconsin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction since 2009, ran on a platform of bolstering public education funding, improving the state’s lackluster infrastructure, and expanding Medicaid to Wisconsin residents (known locally as BadgerCare) — something Walker has continuously refused to do since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
A Democratic state representative accused Scott Walker of deliberately turning down $1 billion in federal money that would have helped low-income Wisconsinites have affordable healthcare. Gov. Walker tweaked Wisconsin’s Medicaid eligibility rules to do a “partial expansion” of the system, though it resulted in many of the state’s residents living just above the poverty line getting forced off of Medicaid.
Perhaps Walker’s most famous legacy as governor was his extreme opposition to organized labor. One of Walker’s first acts as governor in 2011 was to ram through a piece of legislation known as Act 10, which effectively blew up all previous public sector union agreements with the state for better wages, working conditions, and benefits like healthcare and pensions.
Act 10 was so unpopular that it drew out hundreds of thousands of people across Wisconsin to protest at the state capitol in the middle of winter (full disclosure: Grit Post contributor Carl Gibson took part in those protests).
As Grit Post previously reported, Act 10 had a pronounced effect on wages for public workers during Walker’s tenure as governor. Teachers, for example, made 8.2 percent less in 2017 when adjusting for inflation than they did in 2007, and their average retirement and healthcare packaged declined by roughly $6,000 apiece.
While Walker gutted public sector workers’ salaries and pensions, he simultaneously lavished large corporations with billions of dollars in tax breaks. Walker came under fire for giving manufacturer Foxconn a $3 billion tax break that the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau found would provide no material benefit to the state for 25 years.
Walker’s defeat Tuesday night signals the end of a long campaign by Wisconsin unions to oust him from the governorship. Walker not only survived a recall election in 2012, but easily won re-election in 2014. Despite his short-lived presidential bid in 2016, Scott Walker has remained a national star in the Republican Party, earning the endorsement of President Trump.
Governor-elect Evers won’t have an easy time in his first two years, however, as Wisconsin Republicans maintained their majorities in both houses of the state legislature.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.